On Friday 8 March all of us here at Good Education Media joined in International Women’s Day, celebrating not only the achievements of our female colleagues, but also those that we work alongside within the industry as well as those that we admire from afar. With this year’s hashtag #BalanceforBetter, naturally it’s also a day which raises discussion around where we’re at when it comes to gender equality in 2019.
Friday 31 August 2018 was Equal Pay Day — a date marking the extra 62 days women have to work to earn the same amount as men by June 30. The day marked the closest we have been to closing the pay gap in 20 years, despite new figures suggesting the gender pay gap is still sitting between 14 and 19 per cent – and in a system where wages and super are linked, the gender pay gap feeds into the superannuation gap. Women currently retire with 47% less superannuation than men and only receive one third of the government tax concessions, with men receiving the other two thirds. Single older women are also the fastest growing cohort of homeless people in Australia.
The concept of merit is often brought up around the gender pay dispute, namely that employees should be paid based on their experience and ability, rather than their gender. This is valid. But in a climate where females are outperforming their male counterparts when it comes to educational attainment, still perform the bulk of unpaid domestic chores (more than 60 per cent of men report helping with less than five hours’ worth of housework per week, while women spend on average five hours more per day caring for children than men) and where men are working less, the discrepancy must be a bitter pill to swallow.
In 2010, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Gender Initiative identified three key areas — education, employment and entrepreneurship as critical to the development of the Closing the Gender Gap: Act Now campaign. Despite the time, money and resources dedicated to the campaign, statistics indicate that the gender pay gap remains largely unchanged. New figures suggest Australia’s discrepancy sits at 14.6 per cent (a full-time female employee earns 87 cents for every dollar a male earns), more than double that of New Zealand (six per cent), a nation who has elected their third female Prime Minister. India has the highest gender pay gap at a whopping 56 per cent, while Belgium is the lowest at three per cent. Some demographics are worse off than others. The gender pay gap is particularly prevalent for high-income workers, it increases with age, and it widens for parents — often referred to as the “motherhood penalty”.
According to the 2016 Census of Population and Housing, male employment has declined by 18 per cent in the last 50 years, while female workers have increased by 22 per cent. According to The Good Universities Guide, female-dominated fields such as nursing, rehabilitation and teaching are on the rise, but the salaries are still middle-of-the-range in comparison to high paying, predominately male professions like engineering and IT.
So, if the plight of women in the workforce is so transparent, what are we doing about it?
Toys, clothes and job possibilities are still marketed towards either gender, despite recent developments in breaking this trend. Toys like Goldieblox and Jewelbots are designed for girls as young as four, with the intention of encouraging their interest in fields like engineering and coding. Elsewhere, No Gender December, built on the premise that a child’s gender shouldn’t determine the type of toys they play with, has also brought the gender equality discussion into the media spotlight. From an early age girls and boys must be encouraged to pursue whatever they are naturally interested in.
The promotion of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in female education, particularly from an early age, is a tactic aimed at reducing the pay gap. Figures released by The Good Careers Guide show that students with STEM qualifications tend to earn around $10,000 more than their non-STEM counterparts
While females represent around half of all science students at Australia’s universities – a category which includes ‘human’ sciences like medicine and psychology – they constitute less than 15 per cent of the classroom when the subject is computer science, engineering or maths. With fewer women studying STEM subjects, employers have a gender bias talent pool to recruit from.
Getting more girls involved in STEM involves demystifying non-traditional industries, developing engaging opportunities for learning and boosting confidence.
According to a recent study by Microsoft, many girls and young women have a hard time picturing themselves in STEM roles while also lacking access to female role models in leadership positions. The study also found that girls who knew a female in a STEM profession were 17 per cent more likely to feel empowered when they engage in STEM activities than those who didn’t. With exposure to positive role models, young girls have strong, successful women that they can relate to and aspire to be.
Girledworld – which Good Education Media has now been a partner of for two years, run regular events designed to upskill and empower secondary school girls with 21st-century skills, a future of work mindset and access to strong female leaders and global STEM role models. Social enterprise Code Like A Girl provides workshops and coding camps that help build the skills to fill around 700,000 new jobs in the digital tech sphere by 2020.
Reports of women taking leave after having a child and struggling to find employment later down the track are common, but there are advocates for a shift in mindset. In March, a cross party group of 44 MPs from the United Kingdom sent a letter outlining the need for “non-transferrable paid parental leave for fathers or second parents” to Equalities Secretary Justine Greening. The intention is to bring balance to parenting, considered “one of the most significant causes of the gender pay gap”.
In September, it was revealed that, for the first time, women outnumber men in the dental industry — the highest paying profession straight out of university with an 82.6 per cent employment rate for undergraduates (The Good Universities Guide 2019).
Fighting Violence Against Women (VAW)
Domestic violence is a huge problem around the world and Australia is no exception. Australia may have been the first country in the world to legislate against sexual harassment in the workplace, but society is unlikely to get its head around fair treatment of women in the workforce while abuse and violence to women in their own homes is so prevalent. White Ribbon, Our Watch and Lifeline are all services committing to supporting and assisting the victims of family violence, while the revolutionary #MeToo movement has given the issue of workplace sexual harassment renewed visibility.
Where to next?
Every day we’re bombarded by statistics about how rapidly the world of work is changing and how important STEM, leadership and entrepreneurial skills are going to be to that new reality. The next generation of women will play an important part in shaping the future. But in order to achieve this, young girls must be supported and empowered to know they are capable of anything, have access to every opportunity and most importantly, demand more for themselves. It’s time we focus on the next generation of talent and make sure gender equality exists for the good of everyone.
Makayla Daglish is the Marketing Director for Good Education Media and brings to the sector nearly a decade of experience in strategic marketing and corporate affairs. Makayla is passionate about helping prepare and challenge young females to become the next generation of change-makers, innovators and leaders. Learn more about Makayla.